They’re yet another sign that NorCal’s landscape is being forever changed by the climate crisis.
Earlier this very week, I nodded at my optimism around 2022’s wildfire season in California. The two prior years each saw accumulated totals of burned land that measured in the millions of acres. As for this year? CAL FIRE had reported at the time just over 202,684 acres across the state were charred due to wildfires — the overwhelming majority of them started by human activity.
That sanguinity was expressed not even seven days ago. Since then, an additional 77,000 acres have been scorned across the Golden State.
Among the current blazes, Mosquito Fire burning in El Dorado and Placer counties — an area that includes the Tahoe National Forest — has grown at an alarming, dizzying, worrisome pace. In just three days, the NorCal blaze has consumed 14,250 acres of drought-stricken land.
#Mosquitofire, El Dorado, Placer County, 9.9.2022 1:57pm Update
Numbers subject to change.
Oxbow Reservoir, 3 miles east of Foresthill.
29585 acres brush and timber, 0% contained. pic.twitter.com/Hpjx0kupSg
— CAL FIRE Nevada-Yuba-Placer Unit (@CALFIRENEU) September 9, 2022
How much of it is contained, you ask? Zero. 0%. And the outlook for any significant containment secured over the weekend looks incredibly bleak.
“The weather in the fire area will continue to be extremely hot and dry overnight and into tomorrow,” CAL FIRE said in a released statement Thursday — with the same conditions expected to linger into the weekend as well, according to the National Weather Service. “Combined with very low fuel moistures fire conditions are likely to replicate today’s behavior during the overnight period and into tomorrow’s operational period.”
We’ve all become a bit numb to the scale of wildfires, by no fault of our own. The sheer velocity of predicaments that have entered our shared reality is disorientating and strains our attention spans.
Yesterday's (9/8) evolution of the #mosquitofire, including hot spot and smoke plume, shown in 6-hour long animation of GOES-West 1-min Geocolor + SWIR + NIR imagery. pic.twitter.com/FVHg8f9twj
— Bill Line (@bill_line) September 9, 2022
This “psychic numbing” is rooted in both trauma and survivalism. In a New York Times article written about the phenomena — published in the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting rocking the country — Dr. Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon who has explored the sensation, has said it’s a byproduct of our oversaturated, overstimulated culture.
“When we come across data and numbers, the emotional part of our brain shuts off, we become more detached from the information, which makes us care about it less,” Slovic told NYT in May.
The professor went on to add the best way to mitigate this is to focus your attention on a singular specific – the victims of a tragedy, wildlife loss in an environmental catastrophe, and other variables in that realm.
Regarding the Mosquito Fire, the acreage burned is dizzying… as is the number of structures in danger of being consumed by the blaze. Taking Slovic’s advice to the digital page, let’s focus on the pyrocumulonimbus clouds — the “volcano-like plumes” it’s producing — which are as striking as they are heartbreaking as they are solidifying (re: the climate crisis) to act as more reasons why we should give a fuck about Mother Nature… and, by extension, her health.
Here are some of the most eye-popping tweets showing the fire’s smoky plumage.
My mom flew back to Ohio today and took this picture of the Mosquito fire from the plane. pic.twitter.com/UF0rZx2CGW
— Ryan Moulton (@moultano) September 9, 2022
From HWY 50 & Camino last night…ominous, breathtaking, and horrifying all at once. Pray for rain… #ElDoradoCounty #pollockpines #camino #PlacerCounty #MosquitoFire pic.twitter.com/YJxRoTT7a6
— 🐄 (@have_a_cow) September 9, 2022
Apocalyptic image of the #MosquitoFire this evening as it burns completely out of control in NorCal west of Lake Tahoe.
Resembles more of a supercell thunderstorm then a wildfire. pic.twitter.com/mXCcn1aaoN
— Colin McCarthy (@US_Stormwatch) September 9, 2022
Placerville CA #MosquitoFire pic.twitter.com/FhiTfqxdtp
— Bri Yan ✌️ (@BP_Cali) September 8, 2022
Feature image: The Mosquito Fire as observed out of an airplane window from a flight from SFO to Frankfurt. (Courtesy of Twitter via @emilyaharringto)